We drove the rest of the way to Chicago, and got in around 3pm. We unloaded / swapped car stuff and verified that Janet had not been charged three weeks worth of parking passes for leaving the Subaru in her spot, then wandered down to Mariano’s for some food.
As summary, below is our after the fact “itinerary” for the trip. Overall, I think we made good use of time. There was the potential for one additional day at the end, but we didn’t really feel the need to stay in the Badlands another day or have any in between places to stop on the way back to Chicago. Plus, it’s not really bad to get back a day before having to return to work so that there is time to unpack and get things squared away.
As far as cost, I think we did very well. We didn’t get stuck paying hundreds of dollars for a night (ie. Yosemite). We did stay in a few slightly more expensive hotels in Estes, Co. but that was easily offset by spending three nights in the car and a nine nights camping. That said, I don’t really like sleeping in the car, and I’m not trying to present it here as a good alternative to a hotel, but rather a necessity brought on by the situation of trying to find reasonable accommodations from both a cost and proximity perspective, whether that be camping or a hotel, on a last minute trip.
|Slept in Car
|Estes Mtn. Lodge
|RMNP – Mt. Ida
|Peak to Peak Lodge
|RMNP – Sky Pond
|Drive to Leadville
|Slept in Car @ Trailhead
|Drive toward Tetons
|Drive to Tetons
|Slept in Car
|Jenny Lake CG
|Jenny Lake CG
|Jackson Lake Lodge
|Coulter Bay CG
|Drive to Yellowstone
|A Wyoming Inn
|Indian Creek CG
|West Thumb Basin
|Mammoth Hot Springs
|Drive to Glacier
|Hidden Lake Trail
|Wind Cave NP
|Drive toward Badlands
|Drive to Chicago
- Owl: Ran over during the night on the way to Billings to sleep for the night. Stretch of road where we saw ~10-12 owls along the road. (3 of which were feathery road kills) Some flew up as we drove past and almost hit. One was just standing in the middle of the road, looked at us and then didn’t move.
- Grizzly bear: From Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot after Grinnell Glacier hike. Up in the clearing on the mountain behind the gift shop/motel.
- Mountain goats: Grinnell glacier hike (4), Highline trail hike(5), along hidden lake hike (1)
- Big horn sheep: Highline Trail hike. 11 total. 2 sets and one standing alone. 1 along Grinnel Glacier hike. RMNP along road near visitor’s center (5)
- Black bear: Mama bear and her two cubs while descending in paintbrush canyon. Matt saw one that ran off in the brush along same area. One possible huffing bear at Fish lake.
- Moose: Mount Ida at the end of the hike. Alerted by the guys fixing the fencing near the parking lot. Saw the bull moose head peek up around a big boulder and then took off.
- Ptarmigan and baby chicks: up on Mount Ida in Rocky Mountain NP
- Grouse and maybe chicks (much bigger): Along Jenny Lake; beginning of the hike prior to entering Cascade Canyon.
- Hawks along the road leaving Glacier in rural MT in the Blackfoot reservation area
- Osprey nests and sightings in Yellowstone canyon.
- Bald eagle soaring above Swan Lake.
- Two swans in Swan Lake (Hermitage point hike)
- Marmots pretty much all parks.
- Pikas in rocky areas of higher altitudes.
- Mule deer walking around Avalanche Lake
- Two fawns with fading spots beginning ascent of FIsh Lake trail
- Deer all over. One near the trail descending near the chalet on highline trail
- Pronghorns all around in the sagebrush along the highways out West
- Bison in Yellowstone. All single sightings. Some near Norris basin campsite.
- Daddy Long leg in the tent
- Elk: Exiting Yellowstone park area near the West entrance. Group in Hayden Valley. Group descending paintbrush canyon at the end of the hike in the forest on the way to the car.
- Fox: Tetons campsite area.
- Beavers and Pelicans: Oxbow Bend, Tetons
- Chipmunks and squirrels along rest areas/near benches
- Cows along the highways. Almost hit one driving towards Glacier NP; free roaming cows, one in the road.
- Sheep along the road.
- Ducks. Diving in the tetons
- Toads in the Badlands
- Rattle snakes: Badlands (two on the Notch trail)
- Horses in Teddy Roosevelt NP / Bison in Teddy Roosevelt near campsite in the morning
- Prairie Dogs in Teddy Roosevelt NP
- Bighorn sheep / Bison driving through Custer State Park
- Bighorn sheep driving into the badlands.